23 JUN 2012 General News Eugene, Oregon

Rupp and Hastings battle through heavy rain in Eugene - USA Olympic Trials, Day 1

Galen Rupp wins the 10,000m at the US Olympic Trials (Getty Images)Galen Rupp wins the 10,000m at the US Olympic Trials (Getty Images) © Copyright
If one purpose of the US Olympic Trials 2012 is, as it was in 1968, to try and replicate possible conditions the athletes will find at the Games, then the rainy weather that settled into Eugene achieved that goal. At times on Friday (22), the heavy precipitation over Hayward Field resembled one of those relentless storms that often blow into the UK from the Irish Sea. And there’s no guarantee that early August won’t have a sample.

Decathlete Ashton Eaton said it best: "We all have to compete in it. When you’re ready, you’re ready." And Eaton was quite ready today as he established 'world decathlon bests’ in his first two events, running the 100 metres in 10.21 and leaping 8.23 in the long jump, both wind-legal and with the distraction of rain. It became heavy during the 400 metres and Eaton was somewhat off his potential in that event. Otherwise he well could have topped the list for best first-day total, just missing by ten points with his 4728 accumulation at the break.

(As usual the Decathlon and Heptathlon are part of the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, and full reports from those events will appear as separate articles - see 'Related Content' under main photo)

Rupp wins but Ritzenhein gets the loudest cheer

Only two events - both of the 10,000m events were decided during the opening session of the eight-day Trials.

The men’s contest was as much about finding the top three for London as it was an effort of one competitor to help a friend get the A-standard for an Olympic spot. From the outset, it was a quest for Dathan Ritzenhein to clock under 27:45.

The 29-year-old Ritzenhein had cast his lot in 2008 with the marathon - finishing ninth in Beijing - but was denied a repeat Olympic spot in the event after his fourth-place finish in the US Marathon trials this past winter. This prompted him to return to the track after an absence of almost four years with an April test run at Stanford. But neither that race, nor a late-May competition in Hengelo, produced the needed result for a London bid.

Galen Rupp, like Ritzenhein part of Alberto Salazar’s training group in Portland, took it upon himself to force the pace from the gun with a front-running effort that led to victory in an Olympic Trials record 27:25.33. Never was Rupp more than one step out of the lead, running a mixture of laps between 66 and 68 seconds during the first five kilometers, as he and Ritzenhein could be seen vocally plotting strategy throughout.

But at the halfway point, the clock read about 13:56, which was not sufficient. Over the next eight laps, Rupp turned up the heat with seven 65s and a 63 to put the time goal within striking range.

Finally, with three laps left, Rupp reasoned that a seasoned runner like Ritz could handle things on his own, and he set out for the finish line even faster, concluding with a 62 and a pair of 63s. (Note that lap times for all runners may be seen using the result link below). The victory means a return appearance in the Olympic 10,000 for the 26-year-old.

Meanwhile, Matt Tegenkamp had become a part of the lead trio with less than four kilometres remaining. Ritz had been pulled by Rupp up to that point, but now he was also pushed by Tegenkamp until the gun lap loomed. Tegenkamp then sped away to seal his own Olympic spot with a second-place 27:33.94 as Ritzenhein suddenly relaxed with a finishing 67 to clock 27:36.09.

Rupp, who ran collegiately at Oregon and has an incredible fan base here, was greeted with a loud roar from the crowd as he finished, but that ironically paled in comparison to the cheer given to Ritzenhein by the very knowledgeable Eugene crowd.

Hastings surprises

The women’s 10,000m did not feature the same level of camaraderie. Deborah Maier took a large lead in the opening part of the race, stretching to as much as 20 metres with 14 laps remaining. Within two laps, her advantage had vanished and Amy Hastings took over the front spot, holding it for all but a few moments remaining in the contest. Letting both Natosha Rogers and Shalane Flanagan enjoy some short moments at the front during the gun lap, Hastings then sprinted past them off the final curve to take the title in 31:58.36.

The 21-year-old Rogers was the surprise of the race, as she dared to run past the veteran Flanagan with 200 metres left. That simply produced a dramatic setting for Hastings to record her finest career victory. Rogers held on for second in 31:59.21, a PB by more than 42 seconds, as Flanagan took third in 31:59.69.

The thrill was incomplete for Rogers, however, since she did not have the required A-standard (31:45), opening the third team position for fourth-placing Lisa Uhl (32:03.46). And if Flanagan, who has already qualified in the marathon, chooses to concentrate on that event as has been suggested, it would elevate the seventh placer, Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (32:17.06) to a team position.

Qualification rounds

Otherwise the day in Eugene was spent in eliminating would-be aspirants for team positions.

The defending Olympic champion in the men’s 400 metres, LaShawn Merritt, had the fastest qualifying time in that event with 45.36. He was almost matched by the 45.38 of 20-year-old Josh Mance. Other heat winners were defending US champion Tony McQuay (45.41) and Manteo Mitchell (45.70).

Two of Mance’s USC teammates also advanced to the semifinal round - Bryshon Nellum (45.58) and Joey Hughes (45.64) - as did Istanbul world indoor relay gold medallist Gil Roberts (45.64) and 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner (45.84).

Another former World Indoor relay gold medallist was not so fortunate. Tavaris Tate was pacing Merritt in the first heat with a strong opening 200 metres when he sustained an injury midway through the final curve and collapsed to the track. No word has yet been given as to the nature and extent of his injury.

Francena McCorory, the fourth-placer in the Daegu World Championships, led the qualifiers in the women’s 400 metres with a 51.11, as Dee Dee Trotter (51.64), Beijing bronze winner Sanya Richards-Ross (51.69) and Natasha Hastings (51.86) won the other heats. Other notables advancing were Jessica Beard (51.75) and Mary Wineberg (51.93).

One of the grittiest runs of the day came from Diamond Dixon, who squeezed out a third place in her heat with 52.66. The Kansas runner entered the final straight in last place, and accelerated strongly to barely extract an automatic qualifying position on her final step.

Both of the 800 metres races began with qualifying on Friday. The heat won by Molly Beckwith in 2:00.61 brought the top four times of the day in the women’s event, as the Indiana runner was followed into the finish by Phoebe Wright (2:00.83), Brenda Martinez (2:01.43) and Heather Kampf (2:01.54).

Defending US champion Alysia Montaño used her usual front-running tactics to win in 2:02.61, although the field was pursuing her closely at the end, with Shannon Leinert (2:02.78) finishing close behind. Internationalists Geena Gall (2:02.96), Maggie Vessey (2:03.31) and Alice Schmidt (2:03.51) also reached the semifinal round.

A clear crowd favourite was 18-year-old high schooler Ajee Wilson (2:03.63) who was leading her heat with forty metres to go, only to be pipped at the wire by Schmidt.

Like Beckwith in the women’s section, Tyler Mulder pulled a bevy of fast times out of his rivals with a 1:46.81, the leading time of the day. University student Ryan Martin (1:46.92), Mark Wieczorek (1:47.05) with a torrid finish, and Brian Gagnon (1:47.10) accounted for four of the session’s five fastest times.

A 2008 Olympian and finalist at the last two World Championships, Nick Symmonds, was firmly in control of his heat, won in 1:46.94 as he nipped David Pachuta (1:47.14) at the tape. Khadevis Robinson (1:47.30) and Charles Jock (1:47.90) won the other heats. Notable among other qualifiers was world indoor finalist Michael Rutt (1:47.99).

Dawn Harper began the defence of her Olympic title in the women’s 100m Hurdles with a 12.79 heat win, but it wasn’t the day’s best time. That came from Kellie Wells one race later, as the US list leader logged a 12.68. Other heat winners were Christina Manning (12.77), Brianna Rollins (12.88) and Nia Ali (12.94).

Kristi Castlin, just behind Wells on the US list this season, qualified in 12.98, along with Ginnie Crawford (12.89) and Harper’s two Beijing teammates, Lolo Jones (13.01) and Queen Harrison (12.98).

Former Long Jump World champion Tianna Madison high-stepped her way to an 11.10 to lead all qualifiers in the women’s 100 metres, as Alex Anderson and Allyson Felix both clocked 11.19 in their heat wins. Carmelita Jeter (11.20) and Charonda Williams (11.33) were the other winners. Athens silver winner Lauryn Williams (11.22) and the Barber twins—Mikele (11.35) and Me’Lisa (11.38)—were among others advancing to the semifinals.

Beijing women’s Discus Throw gold medallist Stephanie Brown Trafton easily controlled qualifying in that event with 62.83, more than 2.5 metres ahead of 2008 Trials winner and Beijing finalist Aretha Thurmond (60.21). Among others advancing to the finals were three-time Olympian Suzy Powell-Roos (57.66) and newly-crowned US junior champion Shelbi Vaughan (59.05).

Will Claye’s third-jump 7.98 set the standard in the men’s Long Jump qualification, with Ronald Taylor (7.93) and Christian Taylor (7.89) occupying the next spots.

The women’s Pole Vault qualifying round, scheduled for Friday, was canceled because of the continuing rainy conditions. All of the 29 competitors will be advanced to a 'super-final’ on Sunday.

Hammer Throws take place in Beaverton

The first US Olympic team members were named on Thursday, as the two Hammer Throw competitions were contested at a facility provided by Nike at their headquarters in Beaverton, located in the Portland metropolitan area some 170 kilometres north of Eugene.

The women’s event was won by Amber Campbell with a season-best 71.80. The 2008 Olympian had some tense moments after slipping to a non-qualifying fourth place in the fourth round, but she eked out a victory by two centimetres with her fifth-round throw.

Amanda Bingson, a collegiate athlete who took up the event only three years ago, had taken the lead on her second throw and had moved her day’s best steadily forward to a PB 71.78 (and her first A-qualifier) in round four, which held on for second after Campbell’s winning toss.

Rounding out the top three was the American record holder, Jessica Cosby, at 70.77, as all possess the A-standard and will travel to London.

Finishing close in fourth was Amy Haapanen with a PB 70.63.

After posting a ignominious three-foul performance in the 2008 Trials, Kibwe Johnson took charge of the men’s event from the start as he led throughout. The defending national champion peaked with a fifth-round 74.97, as unheralded Chris Cralle tossed a PB 74.36 just prior to Johnson’s throw for second.

Four-time US champion and 2008 Trials winner A.G. Kruger, with 73.93, and 21-year-old Princeton student Conor McCullough, at 73.55, were in the next two spots.

Because winner Johnson has an A-qualifier (from last season), the remaining team spots can be filled only with Trials competitors having an A-standard. Kruger alone fulfills that requirement, so the US will have only two competitors in London for this event.

Ed Gordon for the IAAF

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